The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ferry-bike system works: tell the experts they are wrong!

Photo by Carla Gramlich.
Earlier this fall, Governor Chris Gregoire released a report she requested on the Washington State Ferries Division by experts from the Passenger Vessel Association to review the state's ferry system.  The Governor instructed Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond and David Moseley, assistant secretary for WSF to review the report and by November 15th develop an action plan with implementation recommendations. The documents can be found at these links: and

Paula Hammond and David Moseley need to hear from you that the experts flubbed on one recommendation: "The panel recommends that vehicles be unloaded ahead of bikes."

The current system permits bicyclists three opportunities to load and unload -- at the start, mid-way through and at the end. This system has been in place since 1999 when an agreement was reached between Bainbridge Island bicyclists represented by Squeaky Wheels, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and Washington State Ferries management.

The safety record of the current loading and unloading procedures in unblemished in those eleven years. Secretary Hammond and under secretary Moseley need hear from bicycle commuters and recreation cyclists who use the ferry system.

  • Ask them where the Pasenger Vessel Association panel of experts found the data or proof backs up the recommendation that bicyclists slow unloading?
  • What evidence demonstrates that cars and trucks are faster than a bicyclist when unloading?
  • Why make a recommendation that bikes and cars not share the road which is entirely counter to our "share the road" message as authorized by the state legislature?
  • Where is the data that proves that safety is improved if bicyclists load/unload last?
  • How does this recommendation meet the Washington State goal of increasing the number of people bicycling?

Representatives from Squeaky Wheels and the Bicycle Alliance will be talking with under secretary of transportation, David Moseley on Thursday to strongly recommend that the Washington State Department of Transportation and Washington State Ferries do not accept the recommendation "that vehicles be unloaded ahead of bikes." We'll be taking the message to him that bicycles are vehicles in the State of Washington, and an eleven year old process of loading and unloading bikes works! Send a message to Secretary Paula Hammond:  "Don't mess with success!"


  1. This was a subject of discussion on the Cascade message boards some time ago. As I live in Kitsap and do ride the ferry from time to time and have direct experience with the current system, I find flaws in this 'study'.
    Vehicles before bikes? Bikes ARE vehicles. The Bremerton off ramp has a separate route for bikes away from cars, not any impedement issue. Getting off in Seattle I can be at the stop light before any of the cars, PROVIDED the motorists obey the pier speed limit.The issue of motorist speeds has not been addressed and IS a safety issue.
    That 'study' did not have any recognised real bike experts on it and was very auto-centric to say the least. I did not see ANY real studies from Washington State or any accidents recorded from our state.
    This change, if implemented, is nothing more than motorist entitlement and does nothing for safety and expedient egress and access.
    Show me a REAL study.
    The whole thing stinks of,"Waa,waa, those bikes get to go first".

  2. The relevant text in the report:

    "The Panel recommends that vehicles be unloaded ahead of bikes.
    Safety is of the paramount importance with efficiency second. The Panel recommends that a trial project be undertaken to change the loading/unloading sequence with bicycles being loaded last and unloaded last. This allows better separation of vehicles and bicycles and gives the Mate more control over the space allocated to bikes. Bikes are also slower than cars and can slow the disembarkation of those they are in front of. By holding back bikes, it also avoids the need for bicyclists to move through the car deck with their bikes in order to get to the front of the vessel. By off loading after the vehicles, bikes will not be sharing the road at the same time as the disembarking vehicles, allowing for a margin of safety."

  3. I think it's important to note that this is a recommendation for a trial project.

  4. "... it also avoids the need for bicyclists to move through the car deck with their bikes in order to get to the front of the vessel."

    This seems like a poor point, being as the bikes would still have to move through the car deck after vehicle off-load, thus it would not increase efficiency of boat turnover. However unfounded the claims are in this statement as a whole, what are some benefits for bikers getting off first on routes where biker protection is absent (ie the Seattle terminal's biker only lane vrs Vashon Island's lack of one)? I feel we are missing the whole point that if biker safety is an issue, maybe we should look at adding bike lanes to docks to make them as safe as possible, whether bikes get off first or last. Of course, this requires money that our state has little to spare. So what is the safest, cheapest way to make docks safe for everyone? Being as there doesn't seem to be any injury accidents regarding bikes, cars and ferries, maybe nothing. Possibly vehicle speeds if anything, or
    How about a "share the road" sign, haha.